Many colds and ear infections are viral, which means antibiotics will not be useful. Typically, they can resolve on their own within a few days. Using antibiotics repeatedly and when unnecessary can lead to reduced “good bacteria” in the gut, leading to gut dysbiosis and lowered immunity as well as increased resistance to antibiotics. However, when dealing with recurrent ear infections, the underlying cause needs to be addressed and resolved.
Chronic ear infections affect about one in three children. These recurrent ear infections can lead to hearing loss and delays in speech and language development so it is very important to find and treat the underlying cause of the recurrent infection. Also, immediate relief to the child is crucial, as ear infections can be very painful for them. A warm compress is very beneficial in immediate relief of the pain associated with ear infections. We typically use a heated rice pack or eye pillow on the painful ear to alleviate pain.
Most researchers agree that inflammation leading to ear infections are caused by allergies of some sort and many times this is specific to a food intolerance. The main foods shown to be problematic are dairy, wheat/gluten, corn, eggs, potatoes, sugar, and citrus.
Addressing the underlying allergen/cause is most critical in preventing recurring infections.
For optimal immune function and health, these foods should be limited/removed.
Additional recommendations for natural treatments for ear infections are chamomilla homeopath tablets or Hyland’s homeopathic tablets, and a combination of garlic/muellin oil drops in the ear. (It is important to not add anything to the ear if it is suspected that the ear drum is ruptured. This can be easily checked with an at-home otoscope.) Echinacea and Elderberry syrup are great additions to have on hand during cold and flu season. Both are very effective in increasing immune function. If breastfeeding, a few drops of breast milk in the affected ear can be extremely beneficial. Supplying the digestive tract with plenty of good bacteria in the way of a probiotic supplement is also crucial in immune function and treating and preventing further infection. Additional fluids are also very important to encourage for someone with ear infections or any other illness.
Xylitol nasal drops are another great natural treatment. Xylitol is a natural sugar substitute that has shown to be beneficial in destroying specific strains of bacteria. “Xylitol can reduce the adherence of Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae) and Haemophilus influenzae (H. influenzae) to nasopharyngeal cells in vitro.”2 When the ear infection is caused by a bacteria, these are the two most common strains seen.
Additionally, we like to use chiropractic care as another extremely effective preventative and treatment of ear infections. “Chiropractic adjustments remove interference within the nervous system by correcting misalignments in the spinal column, jaw and possibly cranial bones, without the use of drugs or surgery. Correcting misalignments also reduces muscle tension, decreases inflammation, increases mobility, and establishes proper blood flow & amp lymph drainage, all of which can affect the function of the middle ear and Eustachian tube.”3 Chiropractors use a very gentle approach with these adjustments and this was always our first line of defense against the start of an ear infection. We rarely ever need to do anything further.
It is important to note that the American Pediatric Association (APA) recommends taking a child in to the doctor if:
• The child has dizziness, hearing loss or increasing pain
• The child has a fever of over 102
• Child experiences any redness, swelling or loss of movement around the sore ear
• An object is lodged in the ear
• You suspect that the eardrum has burst
• Symptoms do not lessen within 48 hours
A “wait and see” approach is often recommended if:
• A child over 6 months has pain in one ear and a fever of less than 102
• A child over two years has pain in both ears and a fever of less than 102
• The pain seems to be lessening and none of the other warning factors are present
I will be posting in the near future about making your own Elderberry syrup which is shown to be very beneficial in immune boosting and protecting/treating flus and viruses. It is easy to do at home and saves a lot of money! 🙂
1) Bergner, P, Medical Herbalism, Pediatrics: Chronic Childhood ear infections, http://medherb.com/Therapeutics/Pediatrics_-_Chronic_childhood_ear_infections.htm
2) Azarpazhooh A, Limeback H, Lawrence HP, Shah PS. Xylitol for preventing acute otitis media in children up to 12 years of age. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(11):CD007095. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0016412/
3) New Beginnings Chiropractic, Chiropractic Approach to treating ear infections, http://newbeginningschiropractic.net/chiropractic-approach-to-childhood-ear-infections